In Part I, lead designer Benjamin Krotin describes the prepatory work that needs to be done even before meeting with a prospective publisher. In Part II, he gives advice on how to find the right publisher and make the sale.
3. Fitting A Publisher
Far too often, developers will take their perfectly-crafted documents
/presentations and bombard every single publisher around the world with them. Although this is not an uncommon strategy, approaching too many companies too quickly could result in a diluted effort. Instead, developers should scout out which publisher would best suit their IP, and then target them for a more specific approach. For example: An imaginary IP like Super Magic Princess might be a good fit for companies like Disney Interactive, Majesco, or THQ, but this certainly would not be the case for an IP such as Ultra Bazooka Troopers. That sort of game would likely be more suited for companies such as Sega, Activision, or Midway. By tailoring their pitch to the appropriate publishers, developers decrease their odds of being shot down before they have had a chance to show off their work. By doing this, developers reduce the risk of overexposing themselves too quickly. Finding the right publisher to present an IP to is almost as important as coming up with the one.
4. It's Who You Know!
Okay, it is time to confirm a long-standing theory, it is who you know. Any developers that are ready to start approaching publishers should stop in their tracks and give their address books a quick run-through before taking another step. If that address book comes up a bit short, it is time to talk to someone whose is not. Before an IP pitch is even complete, developers should begin approaching the business development managers and producers at various publishers, and start getting their feet in the door. Whether it s through a cold-call, an e-mail, or through an introduction, it is best to know the person or persons that will be receiving a pitch before they are even sent one. This way, a pitch becomes more personal, and it becomes easier to express the emotion and principles behind a concept. Additionally, when the person at the other end is a friend instead of just a contact, a developer's project is likely to get more attention and avoid ending up in the "to-do" pile. By befriending the right people and establishing a proper network of connections, developers are letting themselves get known before they have even shown what they have been working on. A good rule of thumb to remember is this: It's who you know first, and then it's what you know.
5. The Meeting
The meeting is simultaneously one of the most over hyped and underrated aspects of any game developer's pitch. Getting a meeting with a publisher is usually the first step to taking a project out of the conceptual realm and bringing it closer to a development deal. Typically, whenever the first meeting is arranged, its ultimate purpose is to introduce the development team and its IP to the first set of decision makers at a publisher. Hence, the first meeting, though important, is really only one small fragment of an overall larger and more meeting-filled pitch process. The most important aspect of any meeting is to get the point across... What is this game about? Why does it fit this publisher? Why will it succeed? These are all just of a few of the questions that must be answered (without them being asked) if a publisher is going to take any project that is presented to them seriously. Another important aspect of this sort of mindset is to also always remember that by default, it can never be assumed that the publisher has any imagination. This may sound harsh, but the crux of the matter is that it is true. This is because the project acquisition arm of any given publisher is usually made up from more than just a few people. As such, it becomes nearly impossible for concepts like imagination to flow seamlessly between the staff, as everyone's interpretation of a game will likely differ. This is further compounded by the hierarchy that exists within these units. Person A, who is first in line to review something, is usually not in any way obligated to share what they have found with Person B, who is above them in the chain of command. As such, a pitch can be lost before it has even had a fair review. To prevent this, a developer must realize that they are never really pitching to a publisher per-se, but rather to a focused collective of individuals whose job is to either approve or reject ideas. If an idea is approved, it is then bumped to a superior, whose job is to do the same thing. Once enough of these individuals agree, that is when an IP gets a chance. By being informative, original, and extraordinarily persistent, a developer with the right IP can accomplish great things!
[This article originally appeared on the Mary-Margaret Network Blog.]
Benjamin Krotin is President and Lead Designer at 1988 Games, where he is currently pursuing the well-received original Wii IP Zombie Massacre. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of 1988 Games, Ben is also a contributing writer for Cigar Press Magazine. Ben can be reached at this e-mail address.